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Industry Spotlight > RIAs

In-Person Conferences Are Coming Back. Are Advisors Ready?

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Several annual industry conferences are scheduled to return to their traditional in-person formats this fall, and there seems to be a desire among some advisors to attend.

But some advisors indicated their decisions to attend or not will be based on whether they and others have been vaccinated in time.

The companies running the conferences, meanwhile, told ThinkAdvisor they realize that changes may need to be made based on issues including vaccination levels and government rules related to public gatherings. Most also realize at least some advisors will opt to participate virtually for the time being.

Orion’s Ascent

Orion Advisor Services has scheduled Ascent 2021 for Aug. 30-Sept. 2 in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The firm’s decision to return the conference to its traditional format “came down to our ability to hold an in-person conference that is as safe as possible for our physical attendees, while also offering a virtual experience that is just as robust in terms of learning, entertainment, and professional growth,” according to Eric Clarke, its CEO.

“We considered which COVID-19 safety protocols were most effective, and we believe that the vaccine rollout will be much more widespread by Q3,” he told ThinkAdvisor.

But he added: “Safety is our top priority, and we will continue to monitor the pandemic conditions in the coming months and will make any changes as necessary. We’re monitoring local and national COVID-19 conditions and following Arizona safety guidelines. We won’t hesitate to make any further changes to Ascent that are necessary for the health of its attendees.”

Orion has “seen growing travel willingness from advisors and other typical attendees, and we will be polling them to get a pulse check leading up to the event,” he said. “At the same time, we are respecting everyone’s individual choice and comfort level with a physical event. That is why we’re boosting Ascent’s virtual offering this year. No one should feel left out if they would rather have a digital conference experience.”

Orion expects to host more than 1,200 attendees in person and virtually. “At the moment, Arizona is operating at a 50% occupancy capacity for events,” Clarke said. “We are prepared to welcome 750 people on site. We don’t expect any conference in 2021 will look like events from previous years, as physical distancing, sanitation measures and other safeguards will be in place.”

Riskalyze’s Fearless

Riskalyze’s Fearless Investing Summit is scheduled for Sept. 29-Oct. 1 in Palm Springs, California.

Riskalyze has “got a close eye on the improving trends in the rate of infections, hospitalizations, intensive care unit capacity, and vaccinations, [and] we’ve been working with our hotel partners, speakers and previous attendees, and their guidance has been phenomenal,” according to Dan Bolton, managing director of customer marketing at Riskalyze.

He conceded the pandemic is “far from over,” but said: “We’re betting on America and believe that, by the third quarter of 2021, there will be an effective national vaccine program in place, in addition to rigorous testing and safety protocols. In the meantime, our events team is keeping a close watch on California regulations and will provide updates to our event plans as needed.”

Riskalyze is also “making sure attendees don’t have to take any unnecessary risks,” he said. That is also why Riskalyze is offering a “100% refund policy,” he added, calling that the “right thing to do.”

Before announcing its plans for this year’s Summit, Riskalyze surveyed customers and “80% said they will be ready to participate in large conferences by Q3, with 50% saying they would attend industry events now,” he said.

T3 Advisor/Enterprise Conference

The Technology Tools for Today (T3) Advisor/Enterprise Conference is scheduled for Sept. 27-Oct. 1 in Denton, Texas.

“We are as confident as we can be,” Joel Bruckenstein, president of T3 and producer of the annual conference, told ThinkAdvisor when asked how confident he was the event will indeed be held in person.

“We still believe that everyone who wants to get vaccinated will be able to do so by the end of the summer. That being the case, we feel pretty good about the chances,” he said.

Bruckenstein was “seeing very strong demand from the sponsors,” he said. “We have not marketed to advisors yet, but we think we will be able to attract a good audience” for the event, he said, pointing out: “There is a large population of advisors in the area, and it is easy for about everyone to get” to its location, near Dallas Love Field airport.

There may be some “light” virtual component to the conference this year, “but I think that many of the virtual events held this past year were sub-optimal,” he said. “Much of the benefit of T3 is the ability to cruise the exhibit hall, talk to the folks who develop the software, and try the software ‘hands on’ while you are at T3,” he explained.

Informa’s Wealth/Stack

Informa’s Wealth/Stack conference is scheduled for Oct. 25-26 in Carlsbad, California.

“We’ve been closely reviewing return plans throughout the pandemic and have confidence that we can safely reintroduce physical events in the second half of 2021,” according to Lindsay Tis, brand strategy director at Informa, adding that it would follow guidance from the government and would also offer digital event coverage.

Informa’s community manager is “in regular communication with the advisor community and, as it stands, feedback shows that people are looking to get back to face-to-face events as soon as possible in a safe and responsible way,” Tis said.

XY Planning Network’s #XYPNLIVE

XY Planning Network’s #XYPNLIVE 2021 is scheduled for Nov. 8-12 in Denver.

When planning the event, “safety is of course our top concern,” according to Kelly Moorman, director of brand communications. “Vaccination rates are on the rise and it’s expected that the majority of Americans will be vaccinated by the end of summer,” she told ThinkAdvisor. Although “we received overwhelmingly positive feedback about #XYPNLIVE(ish) — our entirely virtual 2020 conference experience — we know nothing can fully replace the power of an in-person event and so many people are craving connection right now.”

After weighing those and other factors, a “hybrid event made the most sense and felt like the right balance, so that’s exactly what we’re planning for #XYPNLIVE 2021,” she said. “Ultimately, it will be up to attendees to choose what feels right for them: a virtual or in-person experience. Regardless of what they choose, we’re committed to delivering valuable content, connection, collaboration, and, as always, a strong sense of community.”

MarketCounsel Summit 2021

MarketCounsel Summit 2021 is scheduled for Dec. 6-9 in Miami Beach, Florida, according to Brian Hamburger, CEO and president of MarketCounsel.

“We continue to monitor the public health crisis but it’s imperative, as industry leaders, to look beyond our current situation,” he told ThinkAdvisor. “We see an overwhelming, pent-up demand in the profession to reconvene in a live, collaborative setting. We are fortunate to have established ourselves as the capstone event to the conference season and think that leaves us in an enviable spot to break the Zoom fatigue and get back to genuine connections.”

Schwab Plans Unclear

Asked Schwab’s plans for Schwab Impact and TD Ameritrade LINC this year, Schwab spokesman Rob Farmer told ThinkAdvisor: “We continue to evaluate the event portfolio and education offering for Schwab Advisor Services, with a focus on ensuring the health and safety of our employees and our clients.  As many events require ample advance planning and logistics, we have begun letting advisors know that for 2021, events will likely be virtual. We look forward to a time we can be together again, and we continue to explore opportunities for potentially including some in-person components to our virtual events when and where it is safe to do so.”

Advisors’ Conference Plans

Commenting on XYPNLIVE 2021, Rockie Zeigler III, a certified financial planner and founder of RP Zeigler Investment Services in Peoria, Illinois, tweeted: “I’ve already got my ticket to XYPN LIVE in November!”

Meanwhile, Shana Sissel, chief investment officer at Spotlight Asset Group in Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois, tweeted: “I legitimately cannot wait to attend an in person conference. I have a pre-existing condition so I should be eligible for the vaccine in the next round here in Illinois. Excited for this nightmare to end!”

Similarly, Liz Simmie, co-founder of Honyetree Investment Management in Toronto, tweeted: “I’m not a conference person but I would once I got the vaccine for sure.”

Courtney Ranstrom, co-founder and financial life planner at Trailhead Planners in Portland, Oregon, tweeted in response: “Same. Conferences are exhausting, but I want to see my finance friends. Once I’m vaccinated, I’ll feel comfortable traveling again.”

Erika Jensen, president at Respire Wealth Management in Houston, tweeted: “I’m with Liz and Courtney – once I have the vaccination.”

But Ranstrom tweeted again: “I also want to know that others are vaccinated too. I don’t want to go to a conference where only like 50% of the attendees are vaccinated. Def want some herd immunity.”


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